Matoma & The Vamps – Staying Up

“It’s just not something you’d expect to hear in mid-to-late 2017.”

Tim: Three boybands came out with tracks this week: one a new group from the ludicrously complicated American TV show Boy Band (and the song’s awful); one called Why Don’t We who have been going a year now and are yet to produce anything that isn’t awful; and The Vamps.

Tom: An understated third part to that list, there.

Tim: True, but most of the stated-ness was due to the others being awful, which isn’t something I can say about The Vamps, particularly with Matoma on board.

Tom: Interesting who got first billing there, isn’t it?

Tim: And hearing that makes me realise that, pleasantly, tropical dance has largely been absent this year, which means we can actually enjoy it in the small doses that it presents itself in, such as this.

Tom: It actually sounds a bit dated now, doesn’t it? I’m not sure that it’s a bad sound, it’s just not something you’d expect to hear in mid-to-late 2017.

Tim: In terms of what it does, it’s not dissimilar to last year’s All Night – takes your regular boyband sound, and merges that nicely with something different, turning more into something sounding like a banging remix.

Tom: It’s not quite a BANGER: there’s too much pre-chorus and not enough actual full-on chorus. It’s got the same problem as Galantis earlier this week: there’s basically no bass, which is fine for tropical house but not really great to dance too. But yes, it is at least different.

Tim: That is, in fact, probably what saves it right now from being a generic boyband track destined for the shame and ignominy that hopefully await those two I mentioned earlier, which could easily be generic solo album tracks with a few extra vocals. All in all, this really works for me, as a sound and as a track.

Try – Patrick Brasca & Jay Chou

“If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are now.”

Tim: I’ve never understood people who get up and leave cinemas the instant the main film ends. First off, you’re almost always missing out on nicely designed main credits scenes; secondly, there’s a chance there’s extra scenes coming up; thirdly, and most importantly, you won’t hear potentially great music, like this.

Tom: I was all set to agree with you (because, after all, Owl City’s song from Wreck-It Ralph was amazing), but…

Tim: Well, now, wait Tom, because you may well have your fingers already poised to type things like “oh god” and “I want to shoot the person who came up with these lyrics”, but first: at least give me the fact that this is the first song we’ve ever featured to contain a Chinese rap section, so there’s at least that to appreciate.

Tom: I mean, that’s fair, but the rest is rather… generic to say the least.

Tim: I’ll pick you up on that in a bit, but for that rap: while it’s hardly surprising that Google doesn’t handle Chinese-English translations brilliantly, it does provide a phonetic guide so you can rap along, or in any case TRY (see what I did there) to do it. You may find it nearly impossible, but (as Master Shifu says in the film), “If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are now.”

Tom: I believe you tweeted that with “#deep”, which I think sums up my feelings on it.

Tim: Oh, but it just so is. Anyway, I could go on about inspirational messages (or, depending upon your point of view, patronising and condescending bullshit), but since we’re unlikely to agree I’ll move on and just say that this is the first song in a while that’s got me leaving the cinema with it stuck in my head and wanting to look it up when I got home. And I think that’s a mark of decent pop music, really, and particularly the try/fly/high repetitions in the chorus. But if you’re not happy with that, maybe The Vamps attempting kung fu and stuffing James’s mouth with dumplings will entertain you instead.

Tim: Hmm. A debate for another day, perhaps.

The Vamps – Rest Your Love

“Congratulations on your fortuitous circumstances”

Tim: Less than two months since their last, but here’s the second track from the album; very much as enjoyable as the last, I think you’ll find.

Tim: So by my reckoning, now that The Hiatus is on, and until Busted put out new stuff (GET ON WITH IT WE ARE WAITING), these guys are pretty much the only thing going on, boyband-wise.

Tom: Wait, really? I… huh. I hadn’t realised that. Maybe 5 Seconds of Summer, even though they’re claiming they’re pop-punk? You’re right, though.

Tim: The reason I point this out? Simple: it means they get the dream team of Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk and Savan Kotecha writing tracks like this for them, and my word do they know what to do with them.

Tom: Huh. We’ve both got a completely different reaction to this track. Yep, the later choruses aren’t bad, but I’d file this under “album track”. What do you like so far?

Tim: It’s a whole lot of fun, exactly as it should be, with exactly the right balance of singing and shouting, and a very good number of woah-oh-oh-ings going on in the background.

Tom: When you put it like that: yes, I can see how it ticks all the boxes. But for me, at least, that’s all it does.

Tim: Well, TOP MARKS FROM ME, guys, and either way, congratulations on the fortuitous circumstances you currently find yourselves in.

The Vamps – Wake Up

“Pretty triumphant.”

Tim: Lead and title track off their second album; have a listen.

Tim: I’ll pre-empt your immediate concern by telling you that the video has an extra couple of minutes of music chucked in, mostly in the middle eight, to allow its thrilling plot to play out —

Tom: And its thrilling product placement. It does go on a bit in this version, though.

Tim: — though speaking of plot I’ve not the foggiest what that flickering blue video of him is all about, or if there’s any particular reason Brooklyn Beckham’s hanging around, but there you go. The extra bit’s interesting, actually, or at least the way it alters the track is – the main version is here, and somehow it doesn’t seem to end with anywhere near the same triumphant feeling that comes with the video version.

Tom: Huh. Which is odd, because the whole thing is pretty triumphant. Seriously: I’m impressed by this, they keep coming out with really good tracks for a boy-band. Is this McFly, 15 years on? They’ve supported them before, and I can see them having the same long-term appeal.

Tim: I think you’re very right – certainly, if they keep this up. I’m fairly sure the whole triumphant ending bit is because there’s not much of a middle eight, and in terms of mood or levels there’s not much to distinguish it from the second and final choruses that bookend it, whereas in the video the final chorus comes with a build leading into it.

Tom: And — more importantly — it has Busted jumps.

Tim: Always the most important part of a video.

Saturday Flashback: The Vamps – Oh Cecelia

“Deep Heat Pain Relief Heat Patches, mate.”

Tom: This week, Tim, we went to a trampoline park, where I heard this song. The next morning, I learned two things: first, that I’m not 16 any more and can’t jump around like that for hours without it hurting.

Tim: Deep Heat Pain Relief Heat Patches, mate – I currently have one on each thigh and they work like a charm.

Tom: Second, the guest artist on this song is only 16 and he probably still can do that, damn him.

Now, just a reminder – Cecelia is originally a Simon and Garfunkel song, which was covered in the most 90s way possible by Suggs. Yes, there’s a rap-reggae middle-eight. Of course. So it’s pretty clear than a 2010s boy band will have to change the style somewhat.

Tom: More Suggs than Simon and Garfunkel, there. And notably, an entirely new verse, presumably because “making love in the afternoon” ain’t the best first line for a wholesome boy band.

Tim: Yeah, that’s probably for the best. Interesting that we have another instance of the ‘feat.’ artist not standing out much – more like an guest member of the band, like Kelly Brooke at the Britain’s Got Talent auditions.

Tom: Now, a bit of an admission here: I really like this cover. The new verse is good, the production and vocals are solid, and that effect of only putting the full instrumentation in on the second line of the chorus works really well. I can even forgive the lacklustre middle eight and the chanty bit that follows it.

Tim: I think ‘admission’ is very much the wrong word there, Tom. Announcement, maybe, statement, or assertion, but admission sounds like you shouldn’t be doing it. And that’s wrong, because this is pretty good. An enjoyable cover worth listening to.

Tom: Also, I could do without that “why-ay-ay-ay” bit, but given that the alternative cover has that 90s “wheeeep” sample permanently in the back of it, I can live with it.

Tim: Well that’s only fair. Good work all round.

The Vamps – Wild Heart

“Four young British lads, all with lovely hair – of course you’re going to be a boyband.”

Tim: Four young British lads, all with lovely hair – of course you’re going to be a boyband.

Tom: Crikey, it’s like McFly went acoustic. And were ten years younger.

Tim: It’s surely time to wonder if the British boyband market is yet saturated; perhaps it is, though these guys see themselves more in the ‘be actually musical’ vein of McFly and Busted than the ‘stand around and sing’ vein of One Direction, Union J and The Wanted. They’ve supported McFly on tour, are managed by the same group and their B-sides include covers of Year 3000 and Five Colours In Her Hair.

Tom: Ha. That makes sense.

Tim: Speaking of B-sides, they’ve certainly done everything they can to sell this, with eleven ways for the dedicated adolescent to purchase it, including CDs (one that comes with baseball cards), a signed DVD, a Nashville remix, a version featuring Pixie Lott, the obligatory dance remix and finally a couple of ‘just them’ recordings, with differing members taking lead vocal duties.

Tom: And each version will count separately for the charts.

Tim: Of course, none of that matters if it’s a crap track (though actually, Little Things became one of One Direction’s biggest hits so ignore that), but it isn’t a crap track, it’s a good track, so well done to everyone.

Tom: Agreed: this is well written, well sung, and well produced.

Tim: Or at least well done for this version; I really can’t be bothered to listen to all of them.